The Secret to Discovering the Top Converting Marketing Channels for Your Business

You switch off the computer, put your phone on silent and look at the blank sheet of paper on your desk. It’s a big moment – you’ll need absolute silence to concentrate. Planning your marketing spend for the next 12 months is no mean feat.

How do you choose where to focus? Facebook seems to have had a lot of press recently so maybe you should commit some marketing budget there. You stare out the window and watch the trees blowing in the breeze, listen to the noise of the traffic from the nearby highway, and still no inspiration comes.

There was that special offer that came through the post from Google to get started with Adwords. Maybe you should give that a go.

There are hundreds of marketing channels competing for your time, attention and budget so how do you learn which ones are going to be most effective in delivering sales for your business?

There are three simple steps to identifying the best channels, which we’ll explore one at a time here, before digging deeper into a couple of key channels using some sneaky (and insightful) techniques.

Goals

Before you do anything, you need to know what you’re trying to achieve as this will affect your tactics. For example, an accountancy firm will want to build long-term relationships with customers who go on to deliver a lifetime of sales, while a fast food chain will be looking for an impulse sale.

Budget

What’s your budget? A $10 million marketing budget offers more scope to reach a larger audience, but if you only have $1000 for the year you’re forced to take a more creative and targeted approach. Throwing jelly at the wall and seeing what sticks isn’t an option if you only have one spoonful of jelly (click to tweet).

Facebook advertising, emarketing and SEO are excellent tactics for smaller budgets, as you can create much of the content yourself (with the right knowledge) and build loyalty over time with your growing audience, while large scale multimedia campaigns offer access to a larger audience at a higher price.

Target audience

Where are your customers?

My 90 year-old gran isn’t on Facebook, she’s never ‘Googled’ anything in her life, and doesn’t have an email address (I know!). But she reads a daily newspaper, watches daytime television and loves thumbing through catalogues. If she were my target customer, I might consider inserting a printed leaflet in a newspaper or running an advert on TV. Facebook ads wouldn’t even get close to reaching her.

Do you know the habits of your ideal customer? If you’re still not clear who you’re targeting, check this post from John which walks you through how to create a clear customer avatar.

Before you decide on your marketing channels, identify:

  • name
  • age
  • job
  • hometown
  • family
  • what keeps them awake at night
  • what they’re passionate about
  • who they admire
  • their media habits
  • and much more!

So now you know the basics, let’s explore some more in-depth techniques to finding the marketing channels most likely to convert.

Research tools

We know that it’s important to be on websites and social networks popular with your customers so let’s do some detective work – to get started, visit Buzzsumo – this is a paid tool but you can access limited information without signing up for the paid plan.

Let’s suppose you are a dog trainer – you type “Dog training” into the search bar and the results show that the most popular posts have been shared most on Facebook, with far fewer shares on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Google+.

marketing profs guest post image1 buzzsumo

This initial finding suggests Facebook might be worth your time so let’s go further – head over to Facebook Insights and type “Dog training” into the search box, then navigate to the groups tab:

marketing profs guest post image2 FB groups

We can see some pretty active groups, some with over 20,000 members – Facebook is starting to look more and more attractive as a marketing channel to connect with our audience.

What if your research suggests Facebook is a waste of time? Let’s do some research on Twitter and see if this is a better fit. First visit Twitter and type your key term into the search box:

marketing profs guest post image3 Twitter search

Navigate to the ‘Live’ tab to see what people are tweeting right now around this topic – when I did this, there were plenty of live results, from companies selling dog training collars to people talking about a dog training podcast.

Wait. A dog training podcast? OPPORTUNITY ALERT!

There may be a chance to be a guest on this podcast, or perhaps its popularity suggests you might want to consider starting your own podcast in 2016 – take a look at the podcast in more detail and to see numbers of downloads and reviews.

I would also use this initial Twitter research to identify any popular hashtags and influencers (add influencers to a new Twitter list – having a separate list makes it easier to keep track of their tweets so you can engage with them and begin to build relationships).

marketing profs guest post image4 Twitter lists

Research takes time and effort – but there are tools out there to help. I love Warble – it’s a free tool and it sends daily alerts from Twitter showing tweets containing a particular keyword or phrase.

marketing profs guest post image5 Warble

Doing any type of research takes time – it’s a bit like following Alice down the rabbit hole – you might get a little lost, but you just might discover an engaged hidden micro-community of potential customers, who are just waiting to discover your amazing business that solves their problems overnight.

I aim to do this type of research once a quarter, to evaluate my chosen channels and identify any potential new ones. However, I also pick up new opportunities as they arise simply by being active in the communities and seeing what people are talking about, so don’t be surprised if your plan evolves over the year.

Next time you sit down to plan your marketing spend, you won’t be starting with a blank sheet of paper and a head full of conflicting ideas. You’ll be starting with a clear direction, backed by first-hand experience and thorough research.

What other tools do you use to research the most effective marketing channels? Please share them in the comments.

 

LUCY THORNTON bio photoLucy Thornton is an online marketer helping tourism businesses get found online by the right people at the right time. She is author or 41 Fresh Marketing Ideas for Your Business which you can download online for free here to be inspired with loads of new ideas to kick-start your marketing today. Come say hi to Lucy on Twitter or connect with her here on LinkedIn.

 

7 Steps For An Effective Social Media Marketing Plan

Marketing Plan

photo credit: pixabay

With 2016 under way, one thing is clear: social media is now a vital marketing channel for businesses of all sizes. The common question a few years ago, “why should our business use social media?”, is now being replaced with, “how can our business grow with social media marketing?”.

As a social media marketer, this makes me very excited. What doesn’t make me excited is how many businesses are still trying to market on social media without a documented strategy. In this post you will learn the seven steps your business must take to create an effective social media marketing strategy.

Step 1: Audit Your Current Social Presence

“Know thyself. Know the customer. Innovate.” – Beth Comstock

Before you strategize about where you are headed, take a quick look at where you are. A few areas to consider when auditing your business’s social media presence are:

  • Which networks are you currently active on
  • Are your networks optimized (photo and cover images, bio, URL, etc.)
  • Which networks are currently bringing you the most value
  • How do your profiles compare to your competitors’ profiles

Step 2: Document Who Your Ideal Customer Is

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” – Peter Drucker

You will want to get as specific as possible with this part. For example, if you identified your target market as parents it would be ok. However, if you identify your ideal customer as a parent that lives in the United States, is between 30 and 50 years of age, earns over $70,000, primarily uses Facebook and has an interest in outdoors activities you will have much more success.

Even the best marketers will fail if they are marketing to the wrong audience. Answer the following questions to help you come up with a highly focused buyer persona:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Job Title
  • Income
  • Pain Points (that your business can solve)
  • Most Used Social Network

Step 3: Create A Social Media Mission Statement

“What makes you weird, makes you unique and therefore makes you stand out.” – Dan Schawbel

Your social media mission statement will drive your future actions, so make sure you put some thought into it. This statement will make it clear exactly what you plan to use your social media presence for and should reflect your brand identity. Keep in mind your ideal customer when trying to create this statement.

An example mission statement might be “to use social media to educate current and potential customers about digital marketing, with a focus on social media marketing.” Once you have this statement documented, it will make it simple for you to decide what to share and create.

If it doesn’t align with your mission statement, forget about it. Businesses that post randomly without a guiding mission will fail. People follow experts, not generalists.

Step 4: Identify Key Success Metrics

“If you cannot measure it you cannot improve it.” – Lord Kelvin

How will you determine if your social media marketing efforts are successful? I am not just talking about gaining more followers, I am talking about making money. Afterall, it is hard to rationalize spending time and money on something that isn’t improving the bottom line.

A few metrics to consider measuring are:

  • Conversion Rate
  • Time Spent on Website
  • Reach
  • Brand Mentions
  • Sentiment
  • Total Shares

Step 5: Create and Curate Engaging Content

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet.” – Bill Gates

Sadly, many businesses jump straight to this step. Hopefully this post has made it clear that there are several vital steps that you must take before you start creating and curating engaging content to share on your social media channels.

Let’s now discuss the fun part, posting to social media. You know who your ideal customer is and you used that information to create your social media mission statement. Armed with this information it should be easy for you to begin creating and curating content. So, what exactly is considered content? Here are a few examples of content you could create:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Blog Posts
  • Company News
  • Infographics
  • eBooks
  • Interviews

The list of content ideas goes on and on, but make sure you focus only on forms of content that align with your mission statement, as well as your skill set. Content is what fuels social media, so it is crucial that you consider creating high quality, engaging content as a top priority.

I strongly recommend that you create a content calendar that outlines how often you will post to each network, which topics you will share and when you will share them.

Step 6: Invest In a Social Media Management Tool

“We live in times in which ordinary people can do amazing things using the right tools”

Most marketers have a secret, they leverage tools to boost their productivity. Ok, maybe it isn’t a secret, but without tools marketers would face constant burnout (many do even with tools). When it comes to social media, having a social media management tool allows you to scale your efforts with ease.

One of the main benefits of a social media management tool is the ability to schedule posts ahead of time. Remember that content calendar you created? Make sure your scheduled posts in your social media management tool align with your content calendar.

Step 7: Track, Analyze, Optimize

“If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.” – Ronald Coase

This may be the most important step when it comes to succeeding on social media. Even the best social media marketers rely on trial and error. It might seem basic, but tracking your results, analyzing the data and then making tweaks to optimize them is crucial.

Each previous step should be re-evaluated after you have had time to analyze the results of your marketing efforts. Let the data drive you. If it is telling you Facebook or Twitter is your most effective channel, consider doubling down.

A great social media strategy is never set in stone. It is a constant work in progress that changes when necessary. So get out there, create a strategy and start optimizing it as you continue to grow and learn more about your business and your audience.

 

Xavier Davis HeadshotXavier Davis is a Digital Marketing Specialist at eClincher, an easy to use social media management tool. When he isn’t crafting killer digital marketing campaigns, he can be found reading, writing and hiking. If you have any questions or would like to say hello, connect with Xavier on LinkedIn or Twitter.

5 Winning Strategies for Millennial Marketing

millennial-marketing

photo credit: shutterstock

It’s no secret that millennials — young adults between 18-34 — are a hugely sought-after market segment. With upwards of 200 billion burning a hole in their pockets annually, winning their trust, and ultimately their business is a boon to any company.

Every generation has had its share of quirks, but millennials require a different touch when marketing to them. They are savvy enough to know when they’re being pitched to, and they have built up a resistance to it. The crucial element that makes them so hard to win over is the same thing that will boost your business if you’re successful: they absorb and put out social signals like crazy.

In other words, if you appeal to millennials the right way, you can get their business, as well as the added benefit of word-of-mouth on a potentially viral level. Here are five guaranteed strategies to get you started in the right direction.

Stay Mobile

As clichéd as it has become, millennials are hard-wired to their smartphones, so make sure your marketing strategy complements this behavior. First, think about the basics. If you use landing pages, are they optimized for mobile? They should be quick to load, and have a clear, mobile-friendly call-to-action (CTA.)

With that out of the way, start thinking about interesting ways you can use mobile to your advantage. Kiip, a “mobile rewards network” connects brands with users during “relevant moments” of online game play, essentially allowing a brand to sponsor an in-game reward. This type of seamless brand integration is a very welcome replacement for players being bombarded by intrusive web banners and is just the sort of thing that is likely to get the attention of millennials.

Create Peer Brand Evangelists

The oversaturation of traditional advertising, coupled with a world of options at their fingertips has led millennials to essentially tune out unwanted interruptions. They seek out the information they need, and there is great marketing opportunity here.

Rather than a traditional out-bound advertising model, you should be forming partnerships with online influencers that millennials already trust. Notable bloggers, podcasters, YouTube personalities, and Instagrammers are a fantastic way into the world of millennials. A recent study unsurprisingly found that younger consumers are heavily influenced based on the opinions of their peers and people they follow on social media. If you can successfully tap into that, you can build your word of mouth very widely, and very quickly.

Be Socially Connected

Just about every business has a social presence in 2016, but not everyone is using the right strategy to properly engage the millennial market. Just being in the social sphere isn’t enough — you have to effectively communicate with your audience.

When done correctly, your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram channels should make each and every customer feel special. (After all, this is the “me” generation we’re talking about.)

Here are several tactics you can use:

  • Loyalty programs for fans
  • Properly engage with customer comments (beyond canned responses)
  • Hold contests
  • Encourage user generated content by featuring it on your own channels
Apt2b-Instagram

photo credit: instagram

For instance, many successful Instagram campaigns regularly feature photos taken by their followers. Take the example of Los Angeles-based furniture retailer Apt2B. They encourage their customers to snap pics of their purchases so others can see their sofas and accessories in-context in somebody’s real apartment. It’s a win-win proposition because new customers get a no-B.S. view of the product while the photo provider feels good about being seen and heard by the company.

Create Authentic Content

While millennials have tuned out traditional advertising, they still value any information they deem to be authentic. So rather than going in for the hard sell, try providing your millennial audience with content they can learn from, or be entertained by. The more they interact with this type of content, your message can slowly soak in, especially if they get the sense that your business shares their core values.

As with any kind of campaign, you need to know your audience in order to speak their language. When millennials hear words that sound as if they could have come directly from their peers, (rather than from Madison Avenue,) they are much more likely to trust the message. If you can regularly provide this type of content that they not only respond favorably to, but would actually share online, it goes a long way toward building a real relationship with them.

Farmed-Dangerous

photo credit: Farmed & Dangerous

An excellent example of this in practice is Chipotle’s “Farmed and Dangerous” web series. Featuring a millennial sustainable farmer as the lead, doing battle against an ominous corporate food production company, Chipotle gets their brand messaging across in a subtle, entertaining way. Not only that, but it gets shared. A lot.

Give Them a Say

More than consumers, millennials are interested in taking on the more hands-on role of co-creator. Traditionally, companies have simply created products, hoping consumers would buy them. But now, with so many options out there, it makes sense to inform your decisions based on input directly from your audience. It makes them feel empowered, and you have the knowledge that your product has a built-in fanbase.

Take Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign as a prime example. For the past few years, they put out a call to their fans, asking them to suggest new flavor ideas, as well as vote on the winners.

By reaching out to your audience and allowing them to be a part of the product creation through contests or social media campaigns, you are involving them in the process. In turn, they feel a sense of ownership in the product, which leads to increased brand awareness and loyalty. And any campaign that results in “Southern Biscuits and Gravy” flavored chips is alright by me.

Final Thoughts

Marketing to millennials isn’t rocket science. In fact, it’s incredibly intuitive, because all it requires is a human touch. Talking at them doesn’t work nearly as well as authentically engaging with them. By offering authentic experiences, and engaging content, and by listening to what they’re asking for, you can empower them to discover your brand on their terms.

I think we can safely expect this trend to continue with each subsequent generation, so the sooner we all learn the ropes of “new marketing,” the more successful we can all be.

 

 

wesmcdowellWes McDowell is the creative director at The Deep End Design, a digital marketing and design agency in Chicago. Forever curious about all things related to design, usability, and internet marketing, Wes loves sharing his findings with anyone who will listen.

Why (and how) you should let your customers do the advertising for you

customer advertising

photo credit: DSC_0134 via photopin (license)

I grew up in the nineties, and my parents weren’t big on technology. My first computer had a 486 processor with a monochrome screen, it ran DOS, and it had Chessmaster 3000 on it. It was given to me by the people who owned the used bookstore in town after it had finally become too dated for even them to use. I loved that little computer.

Finally, one Christmas, my parents broke down and bought a more modern computer. It had Windows 95 and could connect to the internet. I was in heaven. I quickly taught myself to write HTML and launched my first website, a resource for pet rabbit enthusiasts.

Since that time, I have been responsible for the creation and promotion of many more websites, some of which have gone on to become full-fledged, successful businesses.

I am currently CEO of a company I founded around 8 years ago: Hatchwise. Hatchwise is a crowdsourced design community that has designed over a million different logos, websites and graphics of all kinds.

When I first launched Hatchwise, I was still running an internet company I had started previously, called MyCustomLogo, which relied almost 100% on PPC ads to bring in new sales. My company was profitable, but I was constantly stressing over the daily fluctuations in advertising cost. Also, there were a massive amount of competitors who were offering services which were priced similarly to mine, who were then advertising in the same places I did. So each of these factors made me decide that I wanted my next business to rely heavily on word of mouth, and to avoid PPC bidding wars and razor thin margins.

I was successful. The vast majority of contests started on Hatchwise come from people who heard about us through word of mouth, and who then go on to tell others about us, and just about everybody who wraps up a contest on Hatchwise has nothing but good things to say about us.

In this article, I am going to detail what we focus on here at Hatchwise, and why our customers love to tell their friends about us.

1. Focus on what you are selling. If people love the experience they’ll come back.

If your main focus is on getting new customers, but you’re neglecting the service, software, or experience that you are selling, then, in my opinion, you are wasting your time. Having a solid offering will increase your conversion rate and help you maintain a healthy growth. You should always strive to be a company that you would want to be a customer of.

Make sure that you have a website that is scalable and user-friendly. You do this by getting feedback from as many actual customers as possible. For example, it may seem to you that your website is easy to navigate, but you can’t know this for sure until you’ve gotten feedback from the people who are actually using it. Ask them what they like and don’t like about it, and how you can improve their experience.

Once you have a solid website and product you can then focus on spreading the word because everyone who uses your website or buys your product will be telling their friends about you. Obviously, the same situation applies if a customer has a bad experience, which is where the next point comes in.

2. Go above and beyond with your customer service. Everyone should have an amazing experience.

In our current day and age, people expect fast and responsive customer service. One of the things we do at Hatchwise is to make sure that all emails are responded to as quickly as possible. We also try to be aware that if we are consistently getting the same questions over and over, we need to figure out what we can do to eliminate the issue that is causing the email in the first place.

We use every email we receive as a chance to think about how we could make the customer experience easier and better than it already is. There have been times when a customer had an idea, and we implemented it that day, simply because it was a great idea. Every customer is important to us, and if they take the time to provide an idea or problem we take it very seriously.

3. If you never ask you’ll never know.

Several years ago, we began requesting feedback on our customers experience after they’ve completed a contest. This really helped us scale efficiently because we quickly identified issues that affected multiple customers. One of the big issues that arose was that the site was not mobile friendly. We realized pretty quickly by hearing feedback from customers that having a mobile-friendly site was very important to them, which is something that we had, for whatever reason, not really paid any attention to.

We also created an easy way for customers to share issues and request improvements as they were in the process of running a contest. This made it simple for customers to let us know about an issue they were having without having to email us. So we have also received a lot of great suggestions through this tool.

4. Do what you do better than anyone else.

Regardless of what you sell, customer satisfaction should be your number one concern. Identify what your customers want from you and make sure they get what they want. At Hatchwise, we realize the most important aspect of our website is the design that the customer receives. With that as our focus, we’ve worked hard to make sure that the designers who use Hatchwise are completely happy. We do this by dealing as fairly as possible with the hundreds of little issues that pop off when you have a community of thousands of designers, and also, we do this by making sure the website has all the tools and features that they require in order to operate as efficiently as they can. Shortly after we launched we created a unique program that runs in the background of the site that catches most clipart and keeps designers from copying the work of other designers.

By making sure that the designers are happy, we are able to provide an overall better experience to our clients, which results in everyone being happy.

5. It’s okay to reward people.

For a long time we did not have an affiliate program. Anytime a customer referred us it was because they thought we were awesome and they received nothing for doing it. We have recently launched an affiliate program after receiving a lot of requests to implement one. The results have been great. Giving people an incentive to recommend us was something that we should have done a while ago. If people love you and also receive something for recommending you, they are going to do it way more often.

6. It’s all about happiness.

Focusing on customer satisfaction and making it easy for customers to share any issues they are having is one of the biggest things you can do to grow your platform. It’s easy to create banner ads and market your site, but if the customers you have already have are not 100% satisfied, you are wasting your money. It is much better to have your existing customers be the marketers for your website. This will save you a significant amount of money and you will have a much more stable site.

George RyanGeorge Ryan is a serial entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of Hatchwise, a community of tens of thousands of graphic designers and writers who have created over a million amazing designs and company names since 2008. George resides on the Connecticut coast, where he enjoys photography, his family, and starting new businesses.